Apprenticeship wave in Hong Kong

Inside a workshop in Hong Kong, nurse Eric Pun and more than 20 young people crowded to learn how to use a drill.

Fast-moving businesses have begun offering training courses on skills such as home repair and hairdressing, as Hong Kong is witnessing a wave of young migrants looking for opportunities outside the city.





Students in an electronics repair class in Hong Kong on September 3.  Photo: AFP

Students in an electronics repair class in Hong Kong on September 3. Image: AFP

Pun, 35, a nurse who is about to immigrate with her family to Australia, said the home repair course was both a cost-effective way to prepare for the unexpected in a new land.

“In Hong Kong, if you have a problem with your home, you can go to the property management office or hire someone to fix it. But when the family moved to Australia, I had to rely on myself,” he said.

A day’s apprenticeship at Renobro, one of the few companies that offers home repair classes, costs about $250 and has to be booked weeks in advance, according to Lau Chun-yu, co-founder and instructor of the company. company.

“More than 1,000 people have taken our vocational course,” Lau said. “When we first started, we didn’t expect so many people to migrate.”

Lau said that most of the students are in their 30s, including doctors and teachers. They learn the curriculum quickly in one day, practice more than 40 skills such as baiting, plastering, rewinding electric motors of household appliances.

“Most are not well prepared, but they hope to migrate as soon as possible,” he said, adding that many are concerned that countries are increasingly tightening immigration rules.





Lau Chun-yu (second from left), co-founder of Ronobro, a home repair class in Hong Kong, instructs students on September 3.  Photo: AFP

Lau Chun-yu (second from left), co-founder of Ronobro, a home repair class in Hong Kong, instructs students on September 3. Image: AFP

The latest census figures show Hong Kong’s population dropped a record to 7.29 million, or a 1.6 percent drop from a year ago. The labor force fell to 3.75 million, the lowest level in nearly 10 years.

Many migrant families have children of school age. Primary school enrollment figures released earlier this month showed that 60 schools in the district have reduced their classes by 70 this school year. More than 4,000 teachers quit their jobs last school year.

The UK has become one of the most popular destinations for Hong Kongers, after the country announced a visa program for residents of the special zone who want to become citizens. More than 140,000 Hong Kongers have applied under the visa scheme that Britain launched in January 2021.

Other popular destinations are Canada, Australia and the United States, similar to the wave of migration before Hong Kong was returned to mainland China by Britain in 1997.

Many soon-to-be migrants expressed concern about job prospects abroad, saying they wanted to learn more skills as a precaution. Kimi Chau, 35, a clothing retailer, has taken a series of hairdressing courses in preparation for moving to the UK with her husband and five-year-old child.

“I want to be fully equipped to work after coming to the UK. If I can learn more skills before leaving, then if I have a business opportunity, I will be more confident,” she said.

Chau said she decided to leave because she was concerned that the Hong Kong education system would change amid the changing political environment. “Because I have young children, it didn’t take me long to decide,” she said.





Students in a hair cutting class in Hong Kong on August 27.  Photo: AFP

Students in a hair cutting class in Hong Kong on August 27. Image: AFP

On a sweltering August afternoon, Chau and other students in the hairdressing course brought friends and family to the salon to celebrate their graduation and farewell. Jason Yip, the instructor, said the hairdressing industry has low entry standards and Hong Kongers can find jobs quickly, and said about a third of students plan to emigrate.

Yip said many practitioners appreciate the social aspect of hairdressing as a way to stay close to family and connect with Hong Kongers abroad.

“For them, hairdressing can become a hobby and it will be fun to continue doing hair when moving to a new place,” Yip said. “It’s the joy of sharing and the feeling of being useful.”

Hong Hanh (Theo AFP)

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